The Purpose of Privilege

Reverend Joseph Deck
1/17/20
Reverend Joseph Deck

 

Esther 4:12-17

12 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

17 So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther’s instructions.

 

The Purpose of Privilege

Privilege is a word that causes understanding in the ears of some, and it is problematic to others

It represents a construct to some, made up to point a finger at those who feel it is a tool used to play the blame game….

While in others it is an understanding that it is a tool to remove blame

It can be a weapon to bring that brings peace or a weapon that creates more pain

I have learned in like at times…. avoiding pain, brings more pain, we must face our issues, our bias, our sins, because if we are not careful, we will become pious and sanctimonious, and look down at people who mirror our own failings, that just look different because they are wrapped in a package that looks different.

And on this Sunday, that we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we are talking about a man who was born into privilege.  Educated parents, living a nice middle-class lifestyle.

A man of great humor, the story is told of his fear of flying…. a woman noticed him praying and said, aren’t you Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr; a preacher, why are you praying so hard, don’t you have faith that God will provide safety?  He said madam, I have more experience with God on the Ground than I do with Him in the AIR……

When confronted by a reporter, writing about him and his arch nemesis, raciest, and bigoted Bull Connor, He was asked how did he make it through the firehoses, the bricks that came hurling, the sneering teeth of trained dogs……. he replied it was simple.

We transformed that bull into a steer, and we marched on anyhow!

 

Some of the heroes and heroines of the civil rights movements were privileged and had defining moments!  Sis. Rosa Parks was not the first person to not give up her seat on the bus, but it was a defining moment, where she was used by God to bring about monumental change!

 

But at the tender age of 26, his life would change dramatically.

Have you ever stared in disbelief at some test or some trial that you are going through and wondered, “How could this happen to me? How could I be going through this?  What damage can occur?

 

Point #1 The advantage of understanding privilege with a moral compass to mold consensus

How do you handle it when your good is returned with evil?

12 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

It is important to understand that when you are accustomed to privilege, it is part of your lifestyle.  Education is important.  Mordecai became the teacher, to bring her up to speed about the proper utilization of the privilege she is enjoying.

Dr. King understood this type of vacillation of always putting his family in harm’s way.

When asked didn’t he think he was stretching the budget of the Southern Conference Leader Conference by being so involved in the civil rights movement and he responded:

And I had to look with a deep understanding of why he raised the question and with no bitterness in my heart and say to that man, “I’m sorry sir, but you don’t know me. I’m not a consensus leader. I don’t determine what is right and wrong by looking at the budget of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference or by taking…. Nor do I determine what is right and wrong by taking a Gallup poll of the majority opinion.” Ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher of consensus but a molder of consensus. 

It is one thing to pull baby Moses from the river, but it is important to understand the social conditions that made it necessary to put him there in the river in the first place.

 

Point #2 Responsibility of privilege outweighs the Danger………but unarmed suffering is redemptive

15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

There had to be tension in Esther’s mind to deal with the advantage of privilege as opposed to the disadvantage of helping her oppressed people.

I believe she fought with her thoughts, feelings, and current condition.  But Dr. King can help us here:

On some positions, cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? And then expedience comes along and asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? Conscience asks the question, is it right? There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.

Esther did the right thing.  This freed her up to think more clearly, and seek God through prayer and fasting to do the work.  

She was doing the “inward work” necessary to prepare for the tremendous call, conducted by way of privilege in order to free her people from the manacles of oppression and unjust domination!

 

Point #3 Manifestation of the Outward ignites the reality of appropriate Action

17 So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther’s instructions.

The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.

Mordecai understood, that you must fight an evil conventional natural war with unconventional spiritual weapons of love…sounds kingian…. sounds like God  

Consciousness is only possible through change; change is only possible through movement

I did all of that preaching/teaching about the power of privilege and missed an important point that is begging for clarification, and then did you notice it? Did you catch it?  

I have a confession to make to you.  I have been playing hide and go seek with you on a large part of this sermon.  I have been playing peek a boo, and I need to redeem myself.  It was Dr. King that said unearned suffering is redemptive!

I was talking about the purpose and utilization of privilege, but if you and if you were tracking with me, you would see that I was hiding behind the bushes of privilege being utilized by the oppressed!  Can I expose my ulterior motive here!  I beg for your forgiveness.

I want to shine a light on those who were born with the silver spoon of privilege in their mouths, to those who have the ability to feed least, the left out, the lost among us from this spoon. 

No, I am not discrediting this community that has worked hard to be educated, understand, and do something about injustice!

Can I close in Kingian style?

If the almighty allowed me the ability to take a supernatural panoramic flight I would start around 1947 when a young Army Chaplain would here a call to the poor, the marginalized in our society by the name of Gordon Cosby, and Mary, and as wonderful as that is, I wouldn’t stop there

If he took me to 2025 Mass Avenue in upper NW, and hear grand eloquent sermons by a radical church that was described as a strenuous form of Christianity by James P. Wind, President of the Alban Institute. And as tempting as that would be, to be in the company of called and committed rabble rousers trying to get into good trouble, as John Lewis said, but I would not stop there

I would even watch Thurgood Marshall use his Howard Law School Degree, fight for justice, and landmark decision like the 1954 Brown vs Board of education but as important as this was…I wouldn’t stop there

I would read the books of by Elizabeth O’Connor, Servant Leader, and many other Noble Laureate in Literature worthy books, as much as a nerd, and introvert, that I can be…I would not stop there

If he allowed me to witness the installation of an expresso machine, and politicians and celebrities go in and out of the Potters House where non-religious people can talk about religious things…I would not stop there

I could walk down the street to a place that matured my spiritual formation and leadership capabilities, the Festival Center, with its teachings in the Servant Leadership School, wrestling with now ancestor Fred Taylor, Lawrence Taylor, and John Hassle about my call to the institute of radical reconciliation, a place where I set the record for Executive Director Longevity, where many influencers provided amazing talks at sermons, and I provided many State of the Festival Center talks…good times, I would not stop there

Working with Sis. Gail, the various churches, and others on the Board, but I wouldn’t stop there

I would be right here right now……. preaching in the 8th Day Community, where David Hilfiker raised the question what if our love of mercy chokes justice

Where the homeless have a home

Pilgrims from South Korea can have a home

Wendy Dorsey takes a class about A suffering hope, African Americans and the cross

The Addicted are welcome

People open up their homes

I would stop here, to deal with an angry mob storming the capitol full of mayhem and causing murder.

I would still stop here as I watch the blood of martyrs pouring down the streets fertilizing the land with our evil intent!

I would stop here to pray with my sister, Chief of police of Raleigh nervously tell me where her will is located because there may be a bloodbath in the state capitol

But …it really doesn’t matter with me now……. because I have been to the mountaintop

And I have looked over, and I have seen the promised land, and it looks like hope

Hope is Young people of all colors are rising up

The purpose of privilege is Elders are taking their rightful place and leading and teaching 

The purpose of privilege is to dance just to be silly

The purpose of privilege to play music and enjoy it

The purpose of privilege to play with children and embrace their innocence

The purpose of privilege I to tear down empires of illicit power and build doll houses and sand castles where dreams can become realities

The purpose of privilege is the fight the good fight of faith to bask in the understanding that love is the answer